Mahindra United will be defending the title at the IFA Shield later this month.

David Booth, in charge for the second time at the Mumbai club, talked about pre-season progress and wanted the squad to sharpen up for the season ahead. Known for work ethic and disciplined approach, the Englishman spoke at length about pre-season preparations, challenges ahead and team combination in a squad with four new faces.

About the pre-season preparations and season ahead: “The players are very committed. The quality of work, the quality of play is very good. It is on line to get better. As the new coach at Mahindra United (replacing Derrick Pereira), I am looking at a strong start and expect the players to put behind them the trials and tribulations of last season. It’s very important to start with a clean slate, with everybody putting their best foot forward. Looking forward to seeing the players blend together and see what they can produce when the whole team is playing in the same direction.”

Realistic objectives

“Given a decent amount of good fortune and luck with injuries, I think they are good enough to challenge in every competition they play. From the quality I have seen in them over the matches I have been here, my expectations are very high and I expect the players to try and hit those standards,” said Booth.

“In the practice matches played, including those in Goa, the squad played well particularly in the first half,” said Booth.

“We have looked a little less than ideal in the second half at times. Maybe this is a slight fitness problem or it could also be a concentration problem, but certainly we need to work on both aspects to make sure that everything is covered. Until we get into real competitive games, we would not be able to judge specifically.”

Scope for improvement

“We need to sharpen up getting the ball to the strikers, sharpen up defensively. I don’t like to give goals away. It would also be interesting how much quality the national players bring to the club. They have a very big role to play in helping the club move forward with the experience gained. I’m looking forward to working with them. Definitely we have to make sure that we do not concede goals from set-pieces, we need to be very alert. At the other end, we should put the ball in the right areas. We need a percentage a goals from set-pieces, which would considerably ease matters.”

The three outfield players (Denzil Franco, Muritala Ali and K Aseem) whom we have signed have good pace, different attributes. They are quite young and have good energy levels and hungry to do well.

On the importance of being consistent throughout the season, he said: “it would be nice to win the IFA Shield and Durand Cup, but whatever we do in the early competitions, we need to justify with performances in the I-League. The I-League is a long haul competition where every team is judged. The Federation Cup is a quicker way to AFC Cup competition; these two are the most important tournaments. From a team spirit point of view, I feel that it would be nice to be able to win one competition early in the season.”

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